Psychologist explains why we wake up at 3 in the morning and talk about our fears

Psychologist explains why we wake up at 3 in the morning and talk about our fears
Psychologist explains why we wake up at 3 in the morning and talk about our fears

Thoughts are often painful and punitive, and it is remarkable that these fears evaporate in broad daylight, proving that thinking at three in the morning was completely irrational and unproductive.

Greg Murray, professor and director of the Center for Mental Health, Swinburne University of Technology, and a researcher in psychology, mood, sleep and circadian rhythms (the internal clock that regulates sleep), reveals what the research says about what happens in your body at 3 a.m.

In a normal night’s sleep, our neurobiology reaches a tipping point around 3 or 4 a.m.

The basal body temperature begins to rise, the drive to sleep decreases (because we have a long period of sleep), melatonin (the sleep hormone) peaks, and cortisol (the stress hormone) levels increase as the body prepares for it.

Remarkably, all of this activity occurs independently of cues from the environment such as the light of dawn – nature has long determined that sunrise and sunset are so important that they (hence the circadian system) must be predicted.

We actually wake up several times each night, and light sleep is more common in the second half of the night. And when sleep is good for us, we are simply unaware of this awakening. But, add a little stress and there’s a good chance that waking up will become a fully self-aware state.

Not surprisingly, there is evidence that the pandemic is a sleep-disturbing stressor. So, if you’re having a 3am wake up right now, you’re definitely not alone.

Stress also affects sleep in the case of insomnia, as people become too vigilant about waking up.

Concerns about waking up when a person “should” be asleep can lead a person to anxious alertness whenever they go through a light sleep phase.

And if this sounds like you, know that insomnia responds well to psychotherapy with cognitive behavioral therapy. There is also a strong link between sleep and depression, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your sleep.

The only good thing about waking up at 3 am, Murray jokes, is that it gives us all a vivid example of intimidation.

At around this time in the sleep cycle, we are at our lowest physical and cognitive levels. From nature’s point of view, this is supposed to be a time of physical and emotional recovery, so it’s understandable that our internal resources are low.

But we also lack other resources in the middle of the night – the social connections, cultural assets, and all the coping skills of an adult that are not available at this time.

With none of our human skills and capital left, we are left alone in the dark with our thoughts. So reason is partly right when it concludes that problems are not solvable.

As soon as the sun rises, we listen to the radio, and our three in the morning troubles are set in motion.

The truth is that our minds are not really looking for a solution at 3 in the morning. We may think that we are solving a problem by mentally working out the problems at this hour, but this is not really a problem solving; It is the evil twin problem of problem solving – anxiety, which is identifying the problem, thinking about the worst possible outcome and neglecting the resources we would use if the unfavorable outcome actually occurred.

Have you noticed that your 3 AM thoughts are very self-centered?

In the quiet darkness, it is easy to slip unknowingly into a state of egocentrism. And by circling around the concept of “I”, we can generate painful feelings that seem underdeveloped such as guilt or remorse. Or we shift our tired thoughts to the always uncertain future, generating unfounded fears.

It is important to convince yourself during daylight hours that you want to avoid catastrophic thinking. And for good reason don’t worry. Waking up and worrying at 3 in the morning is very understandable and very human. But in the opinion of the researcher, it is not a good habit to get into it.

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